Roleplay Beginner's Guide

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Roleplaying is, simply put, acting on a virtual stage. A roleplayer builds a character, gives them a history and personality, and acts out the part of their character. Along with other roleplayers, dramatic scenes, epic battles, and timeless romances can be played out.

Firstly, don’t assume you are the only person who is new to roleplay. Chances are there are quite a few just like you wandering around, looking for an opening to meet new people in the welcome centre. Before you move your avatar anywhere, read all the information that UFS offers. Rules, character sheets, tips, etc. If you are not able to find it, ask a member to find out where it is, usually achievable by just asking someone near you.

IC - stands for “In Character"

OOC - stands for “Out Of Character”

It is only a game

Never take anything said IC personally; never get upset OOC with someone personally; never think anyone is motivated by OOC reasoning. If you are being a git and horrible to others then good, but it is beholden unto YOU to make sure you privately remind them it’s all IC and you bear no OOC feelings of negativity towards them. Failure on either side to communicate is a fault on both sides.

All over Second Life® hundreds of role-play sims and role-players are able to do this without an issue. If YOU fail to do this then rest assured that you will be reminded of this section of this guide many times by your fellow players and GM’s. This IS a no brainer! Even total noobs at role-play should be able to get this.

You cannot Win

Another throw back to several bad role-players - WINNING. No, you cannot - everything in roleplay is designed to tell a story. EVERYTHING. So in all things you are part of the story as a character and you help write it. Your duty is to help make a story that will entertain others.

Other players are your audience

Please read that line again! Unlike the attitude elsewhere, the other players are NOT your rivals; they are NOT you enemies; they are NOT people 'who drag you down' and if you think they are things that get in the way of ‘your great plot’, then you really have not seen the woods for the trees. The other players are your audience. Everything you say and do IC should be done with an audience in mind. Your hope is that they will see what you are doing, interact, and have fun. Hopefully they will be doing the same.

Private plots

There is NO private plot. Everything has ripples. A small personal plot can always be overheard and you cannot EVER say ‘This is just a plot between us two’. No, that is selfish. Go to selfish places where they allow selfish play to take place if that is what you are looking for. We are a role-playing sim not a collection of egocentric panderers. If you want to do a plot between you and your friend, go elsewhere and do it in a private location. Use of public spaces requires your plot can go public. Sure you can work it so no one is about to see/hear the plot. Sure. Cool. But if someone overhears then they overhear and you HAVE to include that fact into you plans.

The Basics

In our roleplay medium, which has a great deal to do with the written word, the best roleplayers are not necessarily the best writers. But they are always the most expressive and believable. Good and bad roleplay could arguably be a matter of taste. The fact remains though that to be accepted in the roleplay community, you have to follow certain standards and etiquette.

Emoting

Like actors, roleplayers do more than just stand about speaking dialogs. They move their characters, adjust their body language and use nonverbal communication to help tell their stories. In UFS, roleplayers act out these events through emotes. Emotes are texts written that are displayed as actions taken by a character. Typing /me <text> in the chat box will show actions you perform in character rather than words spoken.

Example:

/me draws his phaser


Will be displayed on-screen:

Bob Fleetdude draws his phaser


Actions and dialog can be used in the same emote by placing dialog in quotations:

Example:

/me nervously averts his gaze downward and says, “Good day, Admiral.”

Will be displayed on-screen:

Bob Fleetdude nervously averts his gaze downward and says, “Good day, Admiral.”

Space Sickness (Also known as Out of Character Dialog)

UFS is typical of most roleplay environments, in that the use of double parentheses ((Example)) will denote when you are speaking as yourself rather than as your character. This is known as being “Out of Character” (or abbreviated OOC). Anything without the brackets is generally interpreted as roleplay. Whenever making comments, or speaking to other roleplayers as yourself, rather than as your character, it is important to place your comments in these markers so that the comments will not be mistakenly attributed as roleplay dialog. The best thing of course is to try to reserve OOC comments to IMs. Should you find yourself in a central role to a situation, and need to mention something OOC to the group, then of course use double parenthesis ((Sorry. Bathroom break)) as already mentioned. There are also many RP/OOC hud’s available in-world that are excellent.

An important thing to also remember is that, in RL, our names and our ranks DO NOT float above our heads. Neither do they in Second Life® or any other metaverse that UFS plays in. Never greet anyone by name who you have never met before, unless you hear their name mentioned in the conversation or you introduce yourself and get it directly. You can sometimes guess ranks, races, and branches by the look of the person (however with red/yellow shirted individuals that is hard), but unless it is obvious, don’t say that someone is a Captain or an Engineer unless you have learned it to be true. Many turn off their ability to see these tags all together. However we feel there are many clues in a tag and/or titler that can help us role-play better.

Roleplay is two-way

Sure, you can sit by yourself in a dark corner of Club Latinum and roleplay alone, but where is the entertainment in that? To truly enjoy it, you need another player. Approach people, involve yourself in group discussions you encounter, stand on the steps and greet everyone. Don’t wait for the roleplay to come to you. Get out of that corner and find it.

Loser!

Not everyone can be the winner in conflict play. Generally when combat occurs, someone has to lose. Can you be that person? Being defeated in roleplay is simply roleplay. It is not a statement about you or your abilities as a person. And, as the saying goes “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” In other words, if you can’t deal with the possibility of defeat, then stay away from the fight. When we bring in RP's with other groups we simply CANNOT always win, and if we lose, we need to do so gracefully rather than being sour sports. This is a role play world, even if you loose, if the end result is you had a good length of role play due it then in end, you never really lost nor can loose. As Role play is the goal you logged in to achieve, so think of it that way and remember to enjoy yourself while also ensuring that others too are able to enjoy themselves.

Believability

While you may be roleplaying in a community that is predominantly filled with fantasy and advanced technology, you should still keep your roleplay appropriately believable. For instance if I’m locked in a brig and there are guards posted to watch over me, my actions to attempt to escape should be tantamount to what my actions might be in real life. I would consider who is nearby, the condition of the forcefield I’m behind, the room I’m in, whether or not there are any obvious exits, how the person roleplayed who locked me in. Did they enable the forcefield? Did they wink at me? Can I use that to my benefit?

Witnesses

Going back to the “two-way” street description. You cannot roleplay alone. If you perform some miraculous feat, fall down and hurt yourself badly, or manage to escape that brig, make sure someone witnesses it.

Be Creative

Close your eyes for a moment and lose yourself in your character. What would he or she do? How would they respond? What would they think? If someone asks your character to serve aboard their ship or station, would she say no? Would she gladly accept? Would she smile and gleefully accept? Don’t be afraid to take that moment to truly live your character. Even if your attempt to reach out and be involved is awkward, it gives a place to start.

Over-flowering

Don’t litter your roleplay with giant, ten cent words or novellas. Beautiful language is a definite advantage in our medium of roleplay but you can be descriptive and creative without inducing yawns from those playing with you. People roleplay to interact, keep your posts as brief as possible.

Under-flowering

It can be difficult at times to know what is too much or not enough. While you don’t want to bore other roleplayers with big, extravagant posts, you don’t want to turn them off with “one-hit wonders” either. For example, you have just met the Admiral. He nods to you in greeting. Do you say "Admiral on Deck.”? Or do you take the opportunity to emote - /me takes the time to come to a complete halt, eyes lifted and respectful, and belts out "Admiral on Deck.” As you wait for a reply?

Follow through

If you start a line of roleplay, finish that line of roleplay. Don’t leave it dangling out there particularly if you have involved others. You may find it useful to prepare a story. Know where you want to start, the general direction you want it to go (there’s no reason to be specific) and how you would like it to end. Then embellish and enhance as it progresses.


Etiquette

Always follow the rules of etiquette for online roleplay. It is the goal of the UFS community to submerse themselves fully into their role. That submersion can be greatly disrupted when very simple rules and common courtesy are not adhered to:

God-Modding

This is pulling amazing powers like invulnerability or the ability to move your ship 10,000 light years or the ability to withstand the heat of a volcano. There are many races in the Star Trek® universe who display fantastic powers well beyond the ability of the primary characters. The most obvious example of this is Q - a collection of beings so far advanced they can move through time and space or wipe out entire civilisations on a whim.

While the Q can be described as 'God-like' there are other lesser abilities which we also do not allow in UFS in the interests of game balance - throwing lightning bolts, invulnerability, and telekinesis are all examples of this category. Essentially, we class a 'super power' as anything that would give a character an unfair advantage at the expense of the other players. Super powers have a tendency to overshadow everyone else and dominate every situation they're used in.

Life would get very dull if Security Officer Fleetdude was immune to phasers, for instance, as firefights would lose a lot of their thrill. This is not to say that everyone has to play an identical human - there are many races with telepathic and empathic abilities which are more subtle. Others, like Andorians, Vulcans and Androids, are considerably stronger than the average human and still more have abilities to see infrared or have photographic memories.

If you do have an idea for an out-of-the-ordinary character then contact the Chief of Starfleet Operation’s office to discuss it. A good rule of thumb when designing your character would be to ask yourself "Would I like to play alongside him/her?". If you can't honestly answer 'yes' then chances are other people won't either.

Remember, we live in a balanced universe. Every being has a weakness, every power can be equalled. No one is invulnerable. Every seeming God-like being in Star Trek® had an exploitable power source which could be damaged. I have always wondered why a being with supreme powers would sit around being a Star Fleet officer in the first place. Part of the magic of the series, was that it was mostly ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary situations, and still managed to survive (as long as you did not wear a red shirt of course).

Please try to have a scientific explanation for the things you do or have happen in your stories. Do not suddenly develop the ability to grow a laser beam gun out of your head that blows the bad guys away. That just shows laziness and lack of imagination.

Always be mindful of what your team members are doing or saying and try to fit your story in with their story. If you are constantly dragging the story so you look better, or you get the save the day, the rest of the team will feel unneeded and tend to drift away. The best ships and starbases we have here in UFS work as a team, each contributing, each adding some element to the story. Do not neglect your character, and its development, but do not develop in a way that takes away from others. God-Modding is also when you emote in a way that you take the choice away from the other person. Such as:

/me fires a phaser at the security guard, causing him to fall unconscious

As opposed to:

/me attempts to fire a phaser at the guard, moving silently from around the corner

Metagaming

This is when you have OOC knowledge that you use IC. The chief aim of UFS is to provide a joint experience, to create a story where everyone is able to add input and develop their character. On occasion, however, you may find your character is being overwritten, or pushed into a corner where your responses have already been pre-determined by another player.

Whenever a player takes sole control of the plot this is referred to as 'power gaming' or and is very strongly discouraged. While we encourage initiative from all players, Star Trek® has always been about teamwork - it is rare that a single character is responsible for 'saving the day' without the aid of their colleagues.

When you are roleplaying you should think of how other characters might respond; Will they agree with you? Would they like to offer their own input, or suggest a different course of action? If there is any doubt, contact the Command Team on your ship/station for guidance - that's what they're there for! We firmly believe that your character is yours and yours alone - no other player has the right to direct your thoughts or actions without express permission from you.

Teleporting

Don’t “poof” out in front of people. If you have to leave the roleplay you are in, make your exit posts then walk away from the other players you are involved with before you teleport out. Don’t “poof” in front of people. If someone would like to teleport you to their location, stop to ask first where they are. A sudden, unannounced arrival could interfere greatly with roleplay that may be taking place.

Don’t teleport in reinforcements. If you find yourself in a conflict of some sort and you’re thinking “Gee, I could really use some friends right about now to back me up.” You best hope they come strolling by on their own. It is extremely bad form to instant message friends to ask for help or to start teleporting them in. In many cases, it’s a quick way to have yourself permanently removed from the UFS community!

Snowplowing

This is when you stepping into someone’s active RP conversation and overwhelm it with your RP. You plow right through with what YOU want to talk about without regard to what is already going on. Not good.

Everyone gets their time in the spotlight. It does not have to be your time every time. If there is already an active conversation going on or someone’s RP plot, don’t snowplow through it with your own plot.

There are much more subtle ways to introduce your RP thoughts, ideas, plots or conversations. RP conversation, like real life conversation, flows and convolutes and changes. It may start out as a conversation about the transporters on Tranquility Station and end up discussing the latest confrontation with the Hirogen. You never truly know where it is going to end up or what roads it is going to take in between. So if you’ve got something you would like to bring into the conversation, listen to it. Follow the flow. Bring it in carefully where it fits rather than trying to force it on others.

Interrupting

Like in conversation, it is considered rude to interrupt a RP conversation that is going on. Though often role players are more open to others joining in, it is usually wise to try to determine if others are welcome before jumping in.

The simplest and usually fastest way to do this is to send an OOC IM. Something along the lines of “(( I see you are engaged in role play conversation. Is this a private conversation or may others join in? ))” Quite often you’ll find that role players are seeking others to join them. But be prepared for the times when it is a private conversation not open to others.

Rape - Don't Do It

Rape, in any form; mental, physical or emotional will not be tolerated within the UFS organization. We all come from diverse backgrounds and we all have pasts. There is no story line reason to drag up something that will make someone uncomfortable or uneasy. Abuse by Officers of Cadets will result in punishment, including dismissal. Despite what has been shown in the series on this topic, we will not be pursuing it here.

Manners, Manners, Manners!

In general, role play behaviour should mirror real life behaviour. The same rules of manners still apply. Take time to think in these terms and you will find smooth role play laid out in front of you.

Inclusion in role play also takes effort on both parts. Don’t just wander around doing nothing and get upset when you’re not included. You have to try too. Remember, everyone gets their time in the spotlight. It may not be your time at just that moment but it will be eventually. Patience is the key.

Stay away from public disputes

If you disagree with the outcome of roleplay, the method of roleplay or the roleplaying habits of another player, take it to instant messages. Do not, under any circumstances, create a spectacle. Public, out of character squabbles are the true sign of a novice, or bad roleplayer. If no matter what you try to do, you cannot reach a resolution for the dispute you are involved in. What should you do? Call in a Gamemaster, Moderator or Administrator to help resolve it. This is primarily the Chief of UF Starfleet Operations and the Strategic Operations staff.

This “feature” is for disputes where a conclusion cannot be reached between the players. This is always someone who is well versed on the rules and can be an unbiased decision maker. Sometimes, we may choose to nullify the line of roleplay from a certain point completely to keep the peace. At other times we may rule in your favour, or the favour of another. Regardless of the outcome, our word is final. Take it and move on!

Excuse yourself

Is the wife calling you to dinner? Did one of your kids just spill a glass of juice down your sock? Don’t panic….the roleplay can wait. But as a courtesy, don’t leave the roleplayers hanging either. A brief instant message will suffice explaining your need to run quickly….or even in the midst of roleplay “I hear a beeping sound from my padd as I listen to the message I stride off purposefully to accomplish the task that has just been given to me, turning around to throw a backward wave and a hasty goodbye as a head off.

Be patient

Because our roleplay is typed, you have to allow for roleplay with those who may not hack away at the keys as fast as you do. Give people an opportunity to respond to your postings. And in many cases, the person or people you are engaged with may not use English as a first language. So often, you have to make allowances for language barriers.

Roleplay is supposed to be a form of escape for you and your fellow players. It is voluntary, consensual, and should never, ever be stressful or full of unwanted drama. Know when to stop and take a step back, breathe, and re-evaluate your role and where you are headed with it. And if all else fails….start over again! Good Luck and Remember this is supposed to be FUN! If you're not having fun, something's not going right.